You grieve God the most by not believing that He loves you, often a result of forgetting how God called you whether it was dramatic or not, said Pastor C.J. Mahaney at a very moving session that marked the conclusion of the 2011 Resolved Conference in California Monday evening.
“Some tend to think of God as merely tolerating them, often disappointed with them and eager to discipline them,” Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., said during the last session of the four-day conference in Palm Springs, Calif.
“If He had not called you, where would you be this evening?” asked Mahaney, who leads Sovereign Grace Ministries. Isn’t that a “frightening thought?”
Recalling his conversion years ago, Mahaney said he knew where he would be had he not been called by God. On the verge of tears, he said he remembered “being converted in the midst of my immersion in the drug culture, being converted one night while smoking hash, being converted one evening the very first time I heard the Gospel … it feels as if this happened just yesterday.”
But, “I am very well aware that it originated in God …I did not start that …I was smoking hash,” said Mahaney, author of numerous books.
“What was there in you [to] suggest a motive why God should call you? Should not this calling of ours invoke our most intense gratitude, our most earnest love?” Mahaney said there was no such thing as a “boring testimony.” “God saved you and protected you from sin since then… Thank God tonight.”
The speaker urged the audience of 3,200 Christians to “retrace your conversion …where He stopped you in your mad career, when He called you through the Gospel.” He said every Christian had this in common, whether it was dramatic or not. “Every conversion is a true miracle of God, the greatest miracle we can possibly experience.”
What motivated God to call us? “Because He loved you…So when you look behind the call of God, you discover the love of God the Father,” the pastor said, quoting Jude 1b, “To those who are called …,” the theme of his sermon.
Mahaney said it was one of the frequent one-word descriptions in the Bible, those who are “called.” Jude, he added, urged the readers to contemplate the Gospel before they contend for the Gospel.
“If you are a Christian, why are you a Christian? Because God called you through the preaching of the Gospel. Jude is saying, before you came to God, God came to you …If you are a Christian, you know God initiated it. He revealed Himself to you.”
Jude’s call in the beginning of his letter, Mahaney said, is “an invitation to retrace your conversion experience and recognize that it originated in God and was initiated by God.”
“If you are uncertain about the disposition of the Father’s heart towards you, you must resolve that from the clear teaching of Scripture … [Otherwise] it will affect every area of your life.” God called and summoned through the proclamation of the Gospel “sinners like you and me as an expression of His electing affection that was determined prior to the creation of this world … You are loved by the Father,” he said.
Stressing that they grieve God the most by doubting His love for them, Mahaney urged the listeners to imagine God saying to them: “You doubt the disposition of My heart towards you? You are not convinced I love you? You do not think I have a personal and particular affection for you?
“I crushed Him … I crushed My Son with the full weight of my righteous wrath against your sin to satisfy My justice. I heard Him cry, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? And you are unconvinced that I love you? What more would you like Me to do? What else can I do to convince you? I love you. Don’t be unkind to Me by not believing that I love you.”
Mahaney said we were unworthy of God’s love and “we will never grow into some form of worthiness … and always be unworthy.” But the Cross of Christ, he said, reminds us not only of how unworthy we are, which deserved this horrific death, “it also informs me that I am loved this much.”
Mahaney advised that Christians must not lose sight of their conversion. “We must remain amazed … grateful … and humbled.”